printer-friendly version   Printer-Friendly Version  

ADHD Diet: Hidden Sources of Gluten and Casein

If your child is following the gluten-free, casein-free diet (GFCF) to manage the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, one of the things you need to learn is how to spot the hidden sources of gluten and casein.  You probably already know that all wheat products – including baked goods and pasta – contain gluten, whereas milk and all dairy products contain casein.  But did you know that there are many less-obvious sources of gluten and casein on supermarket shelves?  Unfortunately, not many food packages state whether they contain gluten or casein. To weed out all these foods, you'll have to look carefully at food labels and ingredients lists.  


The following food items contain gluten or are made with gluten-containing grains:

  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Wheat
  • Oats - they are sometimes contaminated with gluten when they are processed together with gluten-containing grains. Since there is no way to tell for sure, it's best to restrict the use of oats.
  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Pancakes
  • Baked goods
  • Crackers
  • Cereal
  • Granola bars
  • Flour
  • Luncheon meats
  • Soy sauce
  • Cocoa

Examine the ingredients of each food item and look out for any of the following, as these are hidden sources of gluten:

  • Baking powder
  • Barley malt
  • Bouillon cubes
  • Binders
  • Excipients
  • Fillers
  • Hydrolyzed plant protein - HPP
  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein - HVP
  • Texturized vegetable protein - TVP
  • Malt or malto-dextrose
  • Monosodium glutamate
  • Starch or modified food starch 
  • Baker's yeast
  • Natural flavorings
  • Seasonings
  • Some food starches
  • Vegetable gum


The following food items contain casein.

  • All types of animal milk, including low-fat milk, evaporated milk, condensed milk
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Ice Cream
  • Butter
  • Baked goods that contain milk
  • Milk chocolate
  • Hotdogs

We already know that casein is found in dairy products; however, it is more widely used in the food industry than that.  The following food items may contain casein. They often contain gluten as well.

  • Bottled salad dressings
  • Canned soup
  • Bread crumbs
  • Soy cheese
  • Wine
  • Chewing gum and breath mints
  • Processed meat
  • Protein shakes

You also need to look out for these casein-containing ingredients:

  • Whey
  • Milk solids
  • Caseinate
  • Caseinogen
  • Sodium Caseinate
  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
  • Lactose

Non-Food Items

Did you know that non-food items like cosmetics contain traces of inedible gluten?  Some of these items are common household goods used on a regular basis.  They include:

  • Multivitamins
  • Some herbal supplements
  • Many over-the-counter and prescription medications
  • Women's lip products like lipstick, lip gloss, and lip balm
  • Stamps and envelopes

Cross Contamination

You also need to be careful about cross-contamination. These are situations where products with gluten or casein may come into contact with non-gluten or non-casein foods that your child is eating.  The most common example of this is using a knife to put butter on your bread, then letting the child reuse the knife.  If your child is on the gluten-free, casein-free diet, it is best for the whole family to adapt it to avoid cross-contamination or to prevent your child from feeling alienated from family members who can eat "normal" foods.